The best way to get around in Moscow is by public transportation, especially on the Metro. In this article, I’ll tell you about the main means of public transportation in Moscow and, in particular, the types of tickets and travel cards that there are. Most notable among them is the Troika Card, the one used by most Muscovites.
Article updated on February 20, 2020. Originally published on October 4, 2016
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In Moscow, more than 16 million rides are taken every day. Not an insignificant number.
More than half of these rides are taken on the Metro, the best transportation system for getting around in the city.
The disadvantage of the Moscow Metro is that, except in the downtown area, the network of stations is not very dense. Therefore, in the areas that are furthest from downtown, you have to combine it with ground transportation: bus, trolleybus or tram.
The city also operates minibuses (known as Marshrutkas or or routed taxicab), to make the routes not covered by public transportation.
But there are also taxis everywhere, as well as another type of more fun transportation such as cable cars or boats.
Furthermore, the city’s tickets are unified, which means that the same ticket serves for the Metro, buses, trolleybuses or trams. This was not so until recently.
The most used travel card in Moscow is the Troika Card, which can be used to pay on most of the capital city’s public transit systems. In addition to the Troika Card, it is possible to use a Visa or MasterCard to pay and go directly through the turnstiles. It is also possible to use Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
In this article I will focus on the different types of public transportation in Moscow (first part), on the transit tickets you can buy if you are spending one or several days in the Russian capital (second part of the article) and on how to buy tickets or season passes (third part). Let’s get to it!
1. Public transportation in Moscow
1.1. The Moscow Metro and aboveground train lines
The Moscow Metro is fast, cheap, safe and comfortable, except during peak hours when it is very busy (from 7 to 10 in the morning and from 4 to 7 in the afternoon). It runs from 6 in the morning to 1 in the morning.
I will not elaborate further on how the Metro operates because here in this blog you have a guide to using the Moscow Metro and what stations are worth seeing.
Además de los trenes subterráneos del Metro, también existen trenes que circulan en la superficie exterior, entre los cuales cabe destacar tres:
In addition to the Metro’s underground trains, there are also trains that run above ground, three of which are worth mentioning:
- Circle Line No. 14 of the Moscow Metro, called the Moscow Central Circle (MCC – Moscow Central Circle), which was officially opened in September 2016. Don’t confuse it with Circle Line No. 5, which runs through downtown Moscow and is underground.
- The Moscow Monorail, a train in the northeast of Moscow that runs overhead on a monorail through the Ostankino and VDNH area, passing in front of the Cosmos Hotel. It is 4.7 kilometers long.
- The modern Aeroexpress trains that connect the airports to the city center.
On this PDF map (3.4 Mb) you can see all the lines of the Moscow Metro, as well as the aboveground train lines that I just mentioned:
Tickets and passes can be purchased at both ticket windows and automatic vending machines. I explain the different types below: the single ticket, the Troika Card and bank cards (including Apple Pay and Google Pay). The same tickets serve for the subway as well as the bus, trolleybus, tram or monorail.
1.2. Bus, trolleybus and tram
If you are in Moscow for a few days and are traveling to the main tourist attractions, you will most likely use only the Metro, unless you are traveling to places further from the city center.
The disadvantage of the Moscow Metro is that, except in the downtown area, the network of stations is not very dense and they are often a long way from your destination, so you need walk for a while or connect with ground transportation: bus, trolleybus or tram.
The bus is the main means of ground transportation and is managed by the state-owned company Mosgortrans. The highest density of bus routes is found on the outskirts of the city, especially in areas where the Metro does not run.
For its part, the trolleybus network is the largest in the world and one of the oldest. In some areas it is the main means of transportation.
The tram represents only 5% of the city’s passenger traffic, and although in some outlying areas it is the main means of transportation, its use has gone down.
Tickets for these means of transportation may be purchased at automatic machines at bus stops. They can also be purchased at Metro stations, since the city’s transit tickets, as I mentioned before, are integrated, that is, the same ticket or pass is used for Metro, bus, trolleybus or tram.
1.3. Marshrutkas (minibuses)
As a means of transportation there are also what are known as marshrutkas (or routed taxicab), commercial minibuses costing about 50-60 rubles, which usually travel on routes that public transit does not cover. Unlike public buses, marshrutkas can stop anywhere on the route; you just have to ask the driver. Public buses stop only at official stops.
These minibuses do not offer passes or special prices, or discounts for students, the disabled or retirees. The fare is paid directly to the driver.
1.4. Cable cars
In Moscow there are also some cable cars, foremost among them being the new Vorobyovy Gory Cable Car (Sparrow Hills), which started operating in 2018. It links the Luzhniki Stadium and the Vorobyovy Gory viewing platform, crossing the Moskva River with an intermediate stop at the Vorobyovskaya Embankment. 720 meters long, it climbs to a height of 60 meters.
If you visit the area, I suggest that you take this cable car. The views are stunning. As for the fares, it costs 100 rubles on Mondays, 150 on Tuesdays, 250 from Wednesday to Friday and 400 rubles on weekends.
Tickets may be purchased directly at the ticket window in cash or by credit card or you can also use the balance on the Troika Card.
Also worth noting is the cable car that is being built in the VDNH Park, my favorite park in Moscow
You can also travel around the city by taxi. This is a good way of getting to the outskirts of the city or if you are laden with luggage or if you are looking for more comfort. It is also a good way to go from the city to the airport.
A good option for booking a taxi and avoiding the so-called pirate taxis is the Russian company KiwiTaxi, where you can make the booking online.
Finally, in Moscow it is also possible to travel by boat on the Moskva River, although it is currently a means of transportation for entertainment and recreational purposes. There are many companies that operate tours along the Moskva River, with different embankments.
The boats operate from April to October. During winter the Moskva River is frozen.
Tickets may be purchased right at the embankment or online in advance. There are many private companies that offer boat tours. You can buy tickets online on the GetYourGuide platform.
2. Transit tickets, cards and passes
Moscow’s public transit tickets are used to travel on the Metro, Line 14 of the Central Circle (MCC), the Monorail, buses, trolleybuses and trams. These tickets are not used for the Marshrutkas, where you pay the driver.
To use the Aeroexpress train (which connects the airports with the city center) or to ride on the cable car you must buy a different ticket, although you can also pay for these tickets with the balance on the reloadable Troika Card, the one most used in Moscow.
In Moscow there are two transport zones: Zone A in which you are going to be moving 99% of the time, and Zone B, which is the area furthest from downtown, where it is very likely that you will not go (the Districts of Trinity, Zelenograd and Rublevo-Arkhangelskoye).
But of course what you are most interested in knowing about are the types of tickets or travel passes you can buy and the fares.
The fact is that there have been many changes in the last few years and currently there are multiple options, but for tourists there are three main options: using a single ticket, using the Troika Card or using your Visa or Mastercard. I’ll explain each of these options in detail.
Option 1: Single ticket
The first option is to buy a single ticket for 1 or 2 Metro rides, which costs 57 rubles for one ride and 114 rubles for two rides. This type of ticket must be used within 5 days of purchase.
If you are going to spend 1-2 days in Moscow and are staying downtown near many of the tourist attractions, buying a single ticket can be a good option.
Until recently these tickets could also be for 10, 20 or 60 rides, and the ride used to be cheaper the greater the number of rides purchased. This is currently only possible with the Troika Card.
Option 2: The Troika card, Moscow’s star card
The Troika Card is a reusable contactless plastic card for traveling on any means of public transport in Moscow that was introduced as a new feature in the city in 2013.
The card is promoted by the Russian Ministry of Transport and seeks to unify the different transit systems in one ticket and to avoid the excessive use of disposable paper tickets.
It is a card that costs 50 rubles and you have to top it up with money before using it.
You can recover the 50 rubles if you return the card. However, it is only possible to recover the balance of money for legitimate reasons (change of residence to another city, illness, etc.), so it must be topped up with the approximate amount you estimate that you will use; otherwise you will lose the balance when you leave Moscow.
The card can only be used on public transit in Moscow. It is not valid in St. Petersburg, a city where you have a similar card called the Podorozhnik Card.
It is also sold as a key ring, bracelet, ring, token (for those who are more nostalgic) or to carry on your mobile phone.
The balance on this card can also be used to pay for the Aeroexpress ticket, renting bikes in the city, as well as to visit some museums, the Moscow Zoo or the VDNH skating rink.
With this card you can use different types of tickets; you just have to choose the type of ticket that is most suitable for the public transportation you are going to use.
This card can be used with different ticket prices, although you can only choose one: for the wallet fare, for a fare with a fixed number of rides or for a fare with a fixed number of days of use. I’ll explain.
A. Wallet Fare
A fare for those who hardly use public transit or do so for a short while. Ideal for tourists who are going to spend several days in Moscow.
- First, top up your card with the amount you want; for example, 400 rubles.
- Then, you pay 40 rubles for rides on the Moscow Metro, monorail, bus, trolleybus or tram. If you have topped it up with 400 rubles, you will have 10 rides.
You can top up this card with up to 3,000 rubles. The balance can be topped up at the Metro ticket windows, at automatic vending machines, on a mobile phone app or online.
In addition, this fare also includes what’s known as the 90-minute ticket, which allows one ride on the Metro (or by monorail) plus an unlimited number of transit rides for 90 minutes at a cost of 62 rubles. For example, if you complete a ride on the Metro and then a bus ride within a 90-minute period, the card will deduct 62 rubles from the balance, and not 80 rubles (40 for the Metro and 40 for the bus).
The good thing is that the card automatically determines the best fare. The balance is valid for 5 years.
B. Fare with a fixed number of rides
This implies that you know how many rides you are going to take or how many days you are going to use it.
- You can top up for 1 or 2 rides, that is, as if it were a single ticket. It costs 57 rubles for 1 ride and 114 rubles for 2 rides.
- It’s more interesting to top up for 60 rides at a cost of 1,970 rubles, so that each ride costs only 32.83 rubles. It’s no longer possible to top up for 20 or 40 rides.
C. Fare with a fixed number of days
With this plan you can take unlimited rides for a period of one or several days. The days are counted from the time of the first ride. Keep in mind that with this ticket the card is blocked for 7 minutes each time it is used to prevent it from being shared with other people:
- 1 day: 230 rubles
- 3 days: 438 rubles
- 30 days: 2,170 rubles
- 90 days: 5,430 rubles
- 365 days: 19,500 rubles
While the 1 or 3-day tickets are more geared towards tourists who are going to take many rides during this period of time, the 30, 90 or 365-day ones are geared towards the local population that uses public transportation regularly throughout the year.
Option 3: Bank cards, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
A final option launched more recently is direct payment by contactless Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay and MIR bank cards.
So, if you have a contactless Visa or Mastercard (nowadays almost all are), you can go directly to the contactless turnstiles to pay and go through the barrier gate. You don’t need to buy any ticket beforehand.
This system is managed by Russia’s VTB bank.
The good thing is that with this system the cost of each ride is 44 rubles (only 4 rubles more expensive than the Troika Card’s wallet fare).
In addition, you can also use this card system with your mobile phone using the Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay applications.
It is a fast, economical and convenient payment system on the Moscow Metro. In any case, if you have problems with your card because the reader does not read it or your bank has blocked it, you can buy a single ticket or the Troika Card at the ticket windows or vending machines.
3. How to buy and use Moscow public transit tickets
3.1. Buying tickets or the Troika Card
Tickets and public transit passes can be purchased at Metro ticket windows or at automatic vending machines at the Metro or bus stops.
- Metro ticket windows. The easiest thing for tourists is to simply go to the ticket window of any Metro station to buy the Troika Card. For example, if you want to top it up with 500 rubles the first time, all you have to do is mention the word Troika at the ticket window and give them 550 rubles, which include the deposit of 50 rubles.
- Aeroexpress ticket windows. Upon arrival at one of the Moscow airports, you have the Aeroexpress train that connects the airports with Moscow. At the Aeroexpress ticket window you can also buy the Troika Card or other transit tickets.
- Automatic vending machines. It’s very easy to buy a single ticket or the Troika Card at the automatic vending machines because they are also in English and are very easy to use. Simply follow the onscreen instructions.
Finally let me say that if you are traveling with luggage weighing more than 50 kg or adding up to more than 180 cm in length, height and width, you have to pay for a luggage ticket that costs 60 rubles. However, few people buy this ticket since it’s a rule that is rarely enforced.
Access with all types of tickets and passes is enabled by NFC technology (contactless).
Simply swipe your ticket, your Troika Card or your Visa or MasterCard at the turnstile and the barrier gate will automatically open. At the same time, a screen will show you the balance left on your card or the number of rides remaining. On buses you just have to swipe the card on the bus ticket reader to validate your ride.
It is also important to know that on the Metro, in each line of turnstiles, there is a cabin with someone who makes sure that that no one sneaks in and who allows access to children under 7 (who don’t pay) or to people in a wheelchair.
It is also important to know that, according to the regulations, each passenger must have their own ticket; however, with the fare for the 60-ride Troika Card or with the Wallet Fare of the Troika Card, it is common practice to share a card with several members of the same family or several friends.
On the Moscow Metro the inspectors do not have a problem with this practice (it has always been done this way), but on buses, trolleybuses or trams some inspectors might not support this practice and impose a fine on you.
In no case can sharing the card be done with the 90-minute ticket or with the ticket that allows unlimited travel for a number of days.
I personally recommend that each passenger have their own ticket to avoid problems.
Promotional video of the Russian Government on the Troika Card:
I hope you’ve found this article helpful for using Moscow’s public transportation and choosing the most appropriate type of ticket. If it has been useful you can help me by sharing it on Facebook or Twitter
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